Shelby County Commission to take on residency issue for county employees amid county corrections director controversy

Shelby County Commission to take on residency issue for county employees

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The chairman of the Shelby County Commission said next week he will put together a committee to define residency requirements for Shelby County employees. It comes in the wake of a month of controversy over the county’s director of corrections, amid allegations he lives in Tipton County.

The county’s charter says employees have to reside in the county at the time they’re appointed and as a condition of their employment. But that concept that may be explained differently depending on who you ask.

“Every couple of years we face this over and over. And I think it’s very frustrating for our constituents and our community,” said Mark Billingsley, Chairman, Shelby County Commission.

Billingsley said he wants to see a clear definition from other commissioners and the administration of Mayor Lee Harris on what it means to live in the county, for county employees. Billingsley said he believes a lease and a utility bill aren’t good enough.

“My belief is where you lay your head at night, where you wake up for breakfast, where you go to sleep should be your residence,” he said.

In early November, commissioners passed a vote of no confidence in Anthony Alexander, Shelby County Director of Corrections, when presented with documents from a private investigator alleging he lived in Tipton County. Commissioners also said they’d heard work related complaints from inside the department.

Alexander is paid $143,107.92 by Shelby County taxpayers, according to records WMC Action News 5 obtained.

Alexander’s worked nearly 31 years in county corrections and a review of his personnel file through an open records request showed no major issues and in fact frequent high remarks for his work.

County Mayor Lee Harris said weeks ago there was no investigation into Alexander or his residency.

Last week, County Attorney Marlinee Iverson stated in a memo there’s no way to know whether Alexander is a resident of the county or not.

“The County has not adopted a clearly articulated test for determining whether any employee is in conformity or in violation of the Charter’s residency requirement,” Iverson wrote in the memo, "It cannot conclusively be determined that Director Alexander has violated the County Charter’s residency requirement.

That’s what Billingsley says he wants to clear up.

“It shouldn’t be that difficult to determine if you live in Shelby County,” he said, "We need to enforce our rules and be clear about what the residency requirements are.

Iverson’s letter noted that Alexander lives at a Shelby County apartment, where he and his sister’s names are on the lease. The letter said Alexander told Iverson his wife is retired and lives in Tipton County, and he periodically travels to stay there overnight. The letter also indicated that Alexander previously had a driver’s license with the Tipton County address but his current license displays his Shelby County address.

Commissioners meet in committees Wednesday, Dec. 4.

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